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Recently, Reddit user posed a question to the channel r/Boston — “When trying to cross train tracks with opposing traffic cars doing the same, which side do you go to?”
Along with the question, the user added a photo of two possible routes a driver could take: one where the two cars’ paths would intersect (Option A), and one where they wouldn’t (Option B).
The comments under the post were heavily divided as to whether Option A or B would be the correct course of action in this situation. While many commenters argued in favor of Option A, pointing out how it would bring you to the side of the road you need to be on, others said that if you needed to take a U-turn, then Option B would make the most sense.
We asked Boston.com readers the same question — how would they make a left turn in this situation? Of the 449 readers who responded, about 52% chose Option A. One of the common themes among readers who chose this option was that since the majority of drivers are taught to turn left this way, everyone making the turn this way would decrease the chances of an accident.
“While one can make arguments for Option A or B being safer depending on the actual intersection, the reality is the safest option is the most predictable option,” said reader Scott B. from Brighton. “If the vast majority of people do A, then Option B diehards are dramatically increasing their chances of an accident.”
Some of those who chose Option B, such as reader Nicole from Brookline, pointed out how since the cars wouldn’t intersect with this option, it would keep traffic moving faster than Option A would.
“B keeps traffic moving and avoids any unnecessary stopping,” she said. “If there’s traffic (which there always is, it’s Boston) waiting for A just takes too long. I would drive around someone pulling an A and pull a B in front of them. They’ve got to learn somehow!”
A good portion of readers — about 15% — said that how they’d make the turn would largely depend on whether this turn was occurring at an intersection or a median connecting two opposing lanes.
Read below to see what Boston.com readers had to say about how they’d turn in this situation.
Some replies have been lightly edited for clarity.
“It’s A, but not exactly as shown because cars don’t turn like this. Start your turn at the near end of the median and pull between the two ends so your car rear doesn’t block traffic. You will be at an angle and oncoming traffic has room to do the same.” — Ed
“On Commonwealth Ave. along the B Line Option A tends to be the norm. So while one can make arguments for Option A or B being safer depending on the actual intersection, the reality is the safest option is the most predictable option. If the vast majority of people do A, then Option B diehards are dramatically increasing their risk of a head on accident. Boston driving isn’t about following written rules; it’s about learning the unwritten ones and staying predictably aggressive.” — Scott B., Brighton
“Stay on the right side of the road! It would be ridiculous to change the rule in some places and not others. That would lead to more confusion and accidents. Boston isn’t the only place with turns like this, medians instead of train tracks, and people do just fine maneuvering without changing the rules.” — L.D., Fenway
“Option A is how everyone is taught but option B is more practical. I used to live in Brookline and went to BU, so I’ve been stuck and seen traffic stop when cars from both lanes try to take a left and people get blocked in. If we go with B, there will be less traffic but way more accidents for out of towners.” — Shaun, Boston
“This allows both drivers to see the oncoming traffic better. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually happen at these types of intersections (with or without the train) but this seems to be the most sensible approach!” — Danny B., Boston
“I’m confused how this is any different than the two cars both turning let meeting on any two lane road. Someone has to go first — whoever reaches the intersection first. Option B avoids the interaction over the tracks but puts both cars on the wrong side of the road after their turn.” — T.D., Salem
“The question is about turning left. If you choose option B, you end up driving into oncoming traffic. Option B only works (and would probably be marked accordingly) if there’s no left turn, and both directions are U-turning, or if the left turn is one way.” — Amy V., Melrose
“Ultimately, it is safer for both another car crossing the opposite way, as well as oncoming traffic, especially if some of the drivers on the opposite of the median are turning left while others are continuing straight. This is a very common situation on Commonwealth Ave. where there are 2 oncoming lanes with no specified left turn lane.” — Ben, Dorchester
“It’s a left turn at an intersection, no matter how wide the intersection is. Now, consider the arrows to be a line of several cars, not a single car. With Option A, the trailing cars in one direction will block the lead car from the other direction: nobody can proceed.” — Rick S., Chicago
“We have this same general layout at VFW Parkway at Charles Park Road for Millennium Park. Unless the road crossing the tracks has marked lanes, you always take an immediate left after the median, you definitely don’t cross and then go around the other car! Lived in Brookline for years, this is how it’s done all the way along Beacon. Get with it!” — Pete M., Dedham
“B keeps traffic moving and avoids any unnecessary stopping. If there’s traffic (which there always is, it’s Boston) waiting for A just takes too long. I would drive around someone pulling an A and pull a B in front of them. They’ve got to learn somehow!” — Nicole, Brookline
“Using the B strategy allows oncoming cars traveling in the middle and right lanes to see the intersecting vehicle taking the U-Turn much clearer. Also, with the B strategy, both U-Turning vehicles from both sides don’t need to interfere with each other if you take a sharp U vs. a wide U. Strategy B is safer, clearer, and if the only intersection is the railway, being the red arrow in Strategy B, you won’t have to worry about being on the wrong side of the road when U-Turning sharp. B is the correct driving strategy.” — Vinnie C., Malden
“If the only option is to make a U-turn across the T tracks (i.e. it’s not an intersection), always do Option B. If it’s an intersection and you can continue straight onto a cross street after turning left, use Option A, in which case there should be a left-turn arrow anyway (see Beacon St inbound turning left onto Centre St in Coolidge Corner).” — David W., Brookline
“You want to ‘maintain your lane.’ By and large, in Scenario B, you will be facing oncoming. traffic from the cross street. And despite the reputation of Boston drivers, we’re not THAT stupid. The exception here is if you are pulling a U-ey (a U-turn). In this case, you maintain your lane in Scenario B.” — David G., Washington, D.C. (formerly Sudbury)
“B makes the most sense in regard to the flow of traffic. But of course there are some intersections that you would have to do A because of the setup and traffic patterns. Same situation for the ‘T’ pattern intersection. If one person is stopped on the side street and trying to make a left turn onto the main street, if everyone did it like B instead of A the traffic would flow so much more! Use your brain, it’s not rocket science!” — Megan, Arlington
“In the case shown, there was a ‘split’ case … it wasn’t a four-way intersection, or simply a U-turn. In the displayed case, it was a three-way intersection. In the downward direction, the driver was making a U-turn as there was no road to the right — but the driver driving upward could have been making a left onto the road to the left. This creates an ambiguity — in the case of no intersection, both cars are making a U-turn and should choose B. In any other case, at least one car should be turning into the lane they are continuing on, and therefore all cars need to do it, and therefore A. The problem is knowing before it is too late. Therefore it is important to clearly mark the lanes that should be traveled.” — Brian O., Littleton
“What’s the purpose of turning left at that junction? Is it to make a U-turn, or is it to turn onto an intersecting road? If the former, then Option B makes the most sense. If the latter, then Option A would direct the vehicles into traveling in the correct lane. If a combination of the two — U-turn and turning left onto an intersecting road — then Option A. One caveat: for Option A to work properly, the left-hand turning traffic in the other direction would have to have a signal separate from the left-hand turning traffic in the other direction to complete their turns and to avoid stranding cars on the streetcar tracks. A good example of this is at the intersection of Beacon and St. Paul streets.” — Chris S., Brookline
“This specific one is A because there’s a road to the left of the edge of the picture thus an intersection and you obviously stay to the right on any road. But do agree if it were just a road and you were making a U-Turn and not a left turn then obviously you’d mimic B — but again in that case it’s a U-Turn not a left turn in that scenario. You don’t ever make a ‘left’ turn like Option B but do always make a U-Turn that way.” — Jeff Z., Financial District
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.
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